By: Dick Nieuwendyk @ mtltimes.ca
The George-Etienne Cartier Monument was designed by Canadian sculptor Georges William Hill in collaboration with architects Edward and William S. Maxwell and sculptor Joseph Brunet. It was built in honour of Sir George-Ã‰tienne Cartier, a French-Canadian politician, and premier of Eastern Canada, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1814. Construction started in 1812 with the inauguration being planned for September 7, 1914. Delayed by the outbreak of WW I, this event was postponed until September 6, 1919, 105 years after Cartier’s day of birth.
The monument consists of an obelisk, carved of Stanstead granite by Joseph Brunet. On top of the obelisk is the allegorical figure of Fame, a winged female, who holds a laurel wreath in her left hand, ready to crown George-Ã‰tienne Cartier, who stands below her in front of the obelisk. In his hands he holds a document which bears the inscription “Avant tout soyons canadiens” (Above All, be Canadian). A bronze banner below the statue reads “O Canada, mon pays mes amours” (O Canada, my country, my love), the title of a patriotic song written by Cartier in 1835. Surrounding the obelisk are another 17 bronze statues created by sculptor Joseph Brunet. Below George-Ã‰tienne Cartier, leaning against the pedestal, are allegorical figures that represent the first four provinces that joined the Confederation since 1867: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The five women on the back side of the monument represent five provinces that joined the Confederation later. Other statues commemorate the creation of the Civil Code of Lower Canada, which replaced the different French, British and local laws in Quebec with one uniform Civil Code, as well as a soldier carrying a flag, symbolizing loyalty to the flag and the Empire, and scenes depicting legislation and education. Guarding the monument, at each corner of the terrace, are four resting lions, the work of Louis-FranÃ§ois Etien, a Belgian sculptor. The lions, symbolizing the power and protection of the British Empire, were bought by the City and added in 1927. Measuring almost 31m high, it is the most imposing monument in Montreal.
George-Ã‰tienne Cartier was one of the most influential politicians of his time. Born in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, a lawyer by training, he became interested in politics very early on. He was initially associated with the Patriots. In 1834 he was involved in the election of Louis-Joseph Papineau and Robert Nelson. He was also a member of the Fils de la Liberté (Sons of Liberty) who fought in the Battle of Saint-Denis during the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 against the British army. In 1848, Cartier was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, representing the VerchÃ¨res riding. By 1858, he switched sides and became active in the movement to confederate the British colonies of North America. He participated in the Charlottetown, Québec City and London conferences, which ultimately led to the adoption of the British North America Act in 1867, which made him one of the Fathers of Confederation. Cartier was made a baronet by Quee